Revolutionary R1T Electric Pickup Delivers Some Odd Choices

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There's plenty of buzz around the all-new Rivian R1T electric adventure pickup truck at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show, but the reveal in the Griffith Observatory in the hills above L.A. — one of the city's most iconic locations — reminded us of how challenging it can be to make good choices when designing a new vehicle for a well-established market.

Related: More 2018 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

The Rivian R1T is a dramatic pickup, and the company chose a sexy location and played sexy music during a debut featuring stylish finger food and several celebrities and athletes sprinkled across the hilltop. (I admit to becoming a little tongue-tied when meeting singer/actress Rihanna — she was in "Battleship" for crying out loud.) But to succeed, the R1T will have to stand on its own if it wants to move beyond adventure-minded, electric-first adopters into mainstream buyers.

After talking with several members of the Rivian engineering team, it was evident they will not fail for lack of enthusiasm and passion about their mission. They want the Rivian R1T to work like they want their kids to get into their alma maters.

The Rivian R1T's skateboard-like platform is full of small battery cells encased in large cooling suitcases. It is ridiculously complex but well thought out, with superstrong frame rails and cross-members for protection. But this unique structure creates a few oddities as well.

With no front engine (four motors control each wheel independently), it doesn't need a front grille to provide cooled air running through radiator fins. As nice as it is to have a sizable and lockable front trunk to protect gear from the elements and thieves, it seems a little strange to have to all that framework and hood with nothing underneath.

So, it probably makes sense to think of the Rivian R1T as more of a large-trunked SUV or crossover with a bed than a real pickup truck. Beyond the powertrain, this single-body shape (meaning no separation between bed and cabin) has a crew-cab body flowing into the bed, reminiscent of old Chevrolet El Camino or Ford Ranchero pickups. Still, the R1T offers around 1,700 pounds of payload, weighs close to 6,500 pounds, and Rivian claims it will tow 11,000 pounds with ease (mileage range with a load that large is still unknown). This structure allowed Rivian to create a storage tunnel complete with two outboard seats. As interesting and practical as that might be, we're not sure it's a good structural or safety idea.

Related: Bollinger Follows B1 SUV With B2 Electric Pickup Truck

Perhaps the most telling oddity is the placement of the spare tire. Because the R1T's entire underbody is packed with battery cells (surely providing an amazingly low center of gravity), there is no room to store anything under the rear of the bed — where spares are normally stowed. Rivian's well-meaning engineers decided to plant a full-size spare wheel and tire under the bed floor, a la the Honda Ridgeline. Certainly not great if you plan to load the bed with cargo.

image from p.widencdn.net

Despite that, we're happy Rivian opted to provide a spare tire (so many manufacturers are skipping them to save weight), and we love the fact it's full size. But having it under the floor means that if you ever get a flat (which always happens at the worst possible time) with a bed full of junk, you've got some heavy lifting before you can swap the tires. But maybe that's the point and it speaks volumes about Rivian's expectations: To us it says that Rivian doesn't expect its buyers to use the bed often. And Rivian's assumptions might be right, but this design decision could cost the company buyers who need the extra workload.

Of course, we could be wrong, and there's plenty to like about the electric Rivian R1T pickup. It will likely be a while before the pricing and packaging of electric vehicles like the Rivian R1T become accessible to real-world pickup truck buyers. You know: no-nonsense, value-shopping consumers. But once this technology gets to that level, we're guessing there will be plenty of buyers looking for a problem-solver like the Rivian R1T. More to come after we get some seat time.

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams; manufacturer images

image from p.widencdn.net

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Comments

This is Revolutionary.

Ford's newly announced F-150 Hybrid with 450 HP and 600 torque is a shame.

Why does Ford continue doing things the old way. Just add power and trick the dumb population into buying your stuff. If that fails, put a really nice interior in it.

But Toyota and sometimes others say, Hey, let's make something quality and reliable and long lasting.

Huh? What a concept.

A fully electric drivetrain would have been far more reliable than a Hybrid with a transmission and all the linkages.

At the very lest, continue to have a combustion motor. But don't hook it up to a transmission and all the axles etc. Just have it push a generator and make it streamlined and simple so it will last.

Dah! How long will we have to wait for the right tool in our shed?

Maybe they should relocate the spare under the hood. Then they can add that spare tire space to the bed volume.

Thing is Ford will sell every hybrid truck they can make. Meanwhile, Slow as you will be sitting around waiting for Nirvana and Unicorns. Linkages...SMH.

Whatever Thomas.

This truck doesn’t exist

Big question,,where will you recharge it if driving cross country long distance?
Can it use Tesla SC network?

Id rather get Workhorse hybrid ev truck..

https://workhorse.com/pickup/

Would love to see something like this actually come to be. Looking forward to more on this and hoping it doesn't disappear like many other over promised over hyped electric farts in the wind.

Moving the spare from the trunk to frunk or making it able to be mounted in either location might be smart.

Honestly though so few car buys nowadays can or will actually change a tire and honestly small truck buyers are for the most part really car buyers. Especially ones buying non body on frame little trucks. The last and current generations of male and female princesses were mostly taught little or nothing by their fathers regarding changing tires/using tools/being rugged individualists. They can however work a smartphone like nobody's business and are happy to pay for extended service plans, roadside assistance plans, and whatever else it takes so they don't have to figure out tire changing or skin their knuckles. Like it or not, believe it or not... its how it is.

Not exactly what I want but it's a start. I wouldn't be surprised if it's a big hit. Surprised the price is so...... competitive.

The most concerning thing to me is that Rivian is bragging about having $500 million committed for financing. That doesn't sound like nearly enough to me. And then there is the whole charging network thing. You can't charge a 180kwh battery just anywhere in a timely manner. Maybe they plan to join Tesla's network but even it is limited in the types of places that they promote this truck taking you to.

Here in Canada where I live...interior of BC, there are 3 free charging stations in my city and 1 in an nearby city...on the drive from the interior to the west coast(300km) there is one free on the mountain pass.

Government is pushing electric and giving tax credit but these electric are priced way out of your avg consumers reach.

The singular Honda Ridgeline I wish other truck manufacturers would copy is the two way tail gate. Many times I wish I could open side ways. I believe all of the Big Three had them on wagons back in the day.

A 180KWH battery will require a lot of time to recharge. To recharge on a standard 240 volt circuit with a 30 amp breaker would require in excess of 31 hours. On a 50 amp circuit would require in excess of 18 hours.

Initial claims were upto 400 mile range from a 180kWh battery pack.
Here is the problem with that.
Unless you have 3-phase, 320 or 400 AMP 240 Service to your house, you likely don’t have the box capacity to charge it in under 16 hours. 60 Amp circuit at 80% capacity is 48 Amp continuous. 80% of a 200 Amp Service is 160 Amps, which with modern appliances and homes with more than one A/C unit, simply can’t quickly charge an electric vehicle.
A far more reasonable environmental option is to install a CNG pump in your garage and refill Your CNG vehicle with your home gas service. But that’s not as cool as an electric car.
Of course that economic savings goes out the window with dual 200 Amp service, 320, 400 or worse yet- 3-phase.



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